November 27, 2020

The Right to Worship Even in a Pandemic

New York’s dictatorial governor, Andrew Cuomo, may have met his match. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn is asking the Supreme Court of the United States to strike down Cuomo’s Oct. 6 executive order shutting down “houses of worship ” in areas of Brooklyn and Queens, while allowing “essential” businesses, like pet stores, groceries and big-box stores to stay open.

Cuomo insists he’s battling COVID-19. The Diocese says Cuomo’s making a value judgment that going to Target is “essential” but taking communion isn’t. Truth is, for devout communicants who are already suffering social isolation during the pandemic, finding the church doors closed can be soul crushing.

Before Cuomo’s executive order, churches were already following safety precautions including roping off every other pew, requiring masks and urging social distancing. The executive order disregarded that and capped attendance at 10 people — even for large churches with a capacity of 1,200. Sounds arbitrary. Where’s the science here?

In a lower court hearing, Bryon Backenson, an official in the New York State Department of Health, testified that the executive orders targeting the houses of worship “were made in the governor’s office,” and not by the health department or its epidemiologists.

On Monday, two Orthodox Jewish groups filed a similar appeal to the Supreme Court for relief, arguing that Cuomo “made it impossible” for the groups to “exercise their religious faith.”

Cuomo has clashed repeatedly with certain Jewish groups holding large gatherings in defiance of social distancing. But the Orthodox groups that appealed to the Supreme Court argue that they have not “violated any public health or safety rules.” They are victims of the governor’s “guilt by religious association.” Cuomo admits his approach is like a “hatchet. It’s just very blunt.” Blunt and unfair.

The Jewish and Catholic groups are asking the justices to draw a line between the government’s emergency powers during a pandemic and the fundamental rights guaranteed tin the Constitution. Even a pandemic doesn’t justify obliterating the First Amendment’s guarantee to practice religion without government interference.

Expect the justices to take the this case and reverse the Court’s earlier, excessive deference to the emergency health powers of governors like California’s Gavin Newsom. Last May, after Newsom had limited church attendance to 25% of building capacity, the South Bay United Pentecostal Church sued. Newsom’s rule also applied to theatres but not to groceries, banks, laundromats and other businesses. Yet, the Supreme Court justices voted 5 to 4 to defer to the governor, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal wing.

It’s possible Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who reads the Constitution’s text literally, will be sympathetic. Nowhere does the Constitution say that in times of pandemics, the Bill of Rights is suspended.

The sheer length of the pandemic is also likely to make a difference in the Court’s approach. The Court appears poised to step in against the repeated assaults on religious freedom. “It pains me to say this,” Justice Samuel Alito observed in a speech to the Federalist Society last week, “but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.” Certainly, it’s disfavored by Cuomo and his pals in the Hollywood elite.

Ultimately, there’s more at stake even than religious freedom. As Alito warned, the kind of lawmaking by executive fiat that is occurring in states like New York “has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.”

Americans need to demand that their legislators limit the emergency health powers being wielded by governors. State lawmakers need to limit their duration and scope. Some states are already doing so, including Michigan and Wisconsin. Unfortunately, in a one-party state like New York, there’s no will to buck the governor.

The losers are the general public. Imagine if New York legislators were asked to vote on shutting down churches. They wouldn’t dare. Yet, Cuomo does it with impunity, just the way he’s shutting down restaurants and other businesses people have spent their lives building. The ultimate remedy is to return to democratic government and end the reign of these petty tyrants.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of “The Next Pandemic,” available at Amazon.com. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

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7 Responses

  1. What I Can’t Understand Is…WHY Does It Take a ( Church ) To Worship ??? Why Not Virtual or Some Other Means ?
    THE LORD Hath Said…” If There’s 3 Praying IN MY NAME…I WILL BE AMOUNST YOU…One Is Supposed to PRAY EVERY Chance They Get !!! PRAY to ASK…PRAY to FORGIVE. NOT WAIT till Saturday or Sunday…( people can’t even decide whether to go to church on a Sat or Sun ) Besides ( most ) Churches Have Bands or Orchestras ( when the BIBLE Mentions THE ONLY MUSIC ARE TO BE FROM A HARP OR PIANO OR THE VOICE ) To LURE People In…Most Churches Talk About The Upcoming Events…Pot Lucks…It’s Nothing More Than Social Gatherings !!! And Do Little Preaching From the BIBLE TEXTS. Most Go Because Their “LOST SHEEP” and DON’T UNDERSTAND or COMPREHAND The WORDS or PRAY ONLY During Disasters or on Holidays !!! Most Churches Use THE MONDERN DAY ( English made easy ) BIBLES and Have OMITTED THE RESPECTABLE WORDS Like THEE n THY n THO n HATH and Many Many More TRUE SPOKEN WORDS, From the ORIGINAL ACIENT GREEK / HEBREW Written Words. Even THE KJV Lost It’s Way AFTER 1971 ( it’s last true words )

    After The ” LORD’S RISING ” ( while walking through a garden and just before GOD came out from the clouds Sayin…BEHOLD…FOR THIS IS MY SON WHO SIT’S ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF MY THROWN…A Deci pal Had Ask OUR LORD…WHICH Church(s) Should We Attend ? THE LORD said ONLY GO TO A CHURCH THAT HAS MY FATHER’S OR MY NAME IN IT !!! ( church of GOD or JESUS CHRIST for example )

    TODAY’S Churches DEPEND on Tax Free TITHINGS ( which IS mentioned in the BIBLE ) and This IS Their MAIN Grip for People NOT Being Able To Gather !!! And Many Have Become RICH !!! And We ALL KNOW What THE LORD Thinks About THE RICH…

    A Person’s Home Can Be Their Church and Most ANYONE Can Read ( out laud ) THE BIBLE Via ZOOM or SKYPE Etc…And One Doesn’t Need to be a Clergy Person. During These “TRYING TIMES”…THE LORD Will Recognize You For OPENING THE BIBLE and Just READ FROM IT…Ask for ” Understanding ” and He WILL PROVIDE…AMEN

  2. Churches should unlock all it’s doors and keep the so called safe parts in place as long as these stores and pet shops can remain open then so too should the churches Cuomo should be sued by all who are impacted by HIS decisions and MADE TO BE HELD RESPONSEIBLE FOR THE DEATHS OF ALL THE ELDERLY WHO DIED BECAUSE OF CUOMO’S DECISION TO PLACE COVIT 19 PATENTS IN THOSE REST HOMES. HE SHOULD BE LOCKED UP FACING A LONG PRISON TERM FOR MURDER.

  3. He is attacking the freedom of religion. Where are the senators? They attack the constitution as well. People need to be social. For many, practicing their faith in their church is comforting and brings support….something which is needed particularly now. With recovery rate 99% or more…backed by science, there is no reason churches cannot reopen wthin guidelines. Cuomo is a practices religious persecution and needs to be stopped. But the citizens of NY vote for these idiots

  4. Freedom of religion should not encourage individuals to be idiots. But that’s what The UnAmerican Digest would have you believe. Sure, go to church with large crowds. Then pray no one there has the virus. Better get tested afterwards – just in case. Same with bars and restaurants. Or, protect yourself and loved ones, say your prayers at home, and wait until the vaccination is available in a few months. Patience, patience, patience. Better to be patient now and avoid the ventilator or worse.

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